Pride Charlotte makes Charlotte Proud!
An interview of Jonathan Hill
By : Shane Elks
Pride Charlotte recently wrapped up its most successful festival ever! With an estimated 45k in attendance, this city’s rainbow flag is no longer hidden behind the Bible-belt it resides in. I spoke with the Co-Chair and Entertainment Coordinator for the 2012 festival 29 years old Jonathan Hill to gain his perspective on the ever growing festival that celebrates Charlotte’s LGBT community.
SE: When and why did you become involved with the festival? JH: This is my 6th year with the festival and the reason I got involved is because I wanted to be a part of something positive in the community. I have performed for Pride Charlotte at two different locations. And though I have always enjoyed performing and attending I did feel as though there was a need to move closer to the city's center and not hide! Now Pride Charlotte is closing down streets and out among its city in full view! I believe that is gorgeous! How important do you feel location is to a successful Pride?
JH: Location is a huge factor in the success we have had. We now share a similar foot print with the largest festival in Charlotte (Speed Street) and other festivals like Taste of Charlotte and the St. Patrick’s Day Festival and that says to Charlotte we are here and we are not hiding from anyone.
SE: Love it! What has been the most major hurdle you have had to overcome during the growth of the festival?
JH: Oh wow, there are a lot of hurdles but with the move uptown and the rapid growth that we have seen come larger expenses. We have wonderful sponsors that help with our financial needs but what most people don't realize is that Pride Charlotte is a fundraiser for the LGBT Community Center so we keep a small portion of the funds raised at Pride as seed money for the next year and the rest go to help keep the Center operating.
SE: I think that is a huge fact most of the community is unaware of! And how important is the LGBT Community Center and what it offers to Charlotte's present and future?
JH: I feel the center is a huge part of our community here in Charlotte and more people should take advantage of the programming they have to offer. The center has a lot of support groups and host organizations like Still Out photography group and free HIV testing.
SE: Still Out Photography also reaches and gives back far beyond the LGBT community. They have done many events for my husband involving the elderly and handicapped. How much of an impact do you feel such factors as Amendment One and the upcoming DNC had in the success of the attendance for this year's Pride?
JH: I feel that they both had an impact on our attendance. I heard a lot of people say the reason they came out was to show support for our community in the wake of amendment one. I do feel that the DNC was the cause of a lot of the press coverage that we have had but not sure about the actual impact on festival goers. It was defiantly a good feeling being so close together though.
SE: Did you feel having the festival span two days was successful or do you wish to return to one day?
JH: No it was definitely what we wanted and it served as a stepping stone towards next years parade! Sundays attendance was defiantly not what it was on Saturday but it was still a huge success. With the addition of the parade we feel that attendance will rise to similar numbers as Saturday.
SE: So next year you plan to hold the festival on Saturday and Sunday with the parade on Sunday? What will the route be? JH: We are still working on all the details but yes the intention is to have the parade on Sunday.
SE: When booking and coordinating entertainment what is your main goal?
JH: To be diverse. We want to have something for everyone and we want to be fresh. I feel that you can go to just about any major LGBT festival as see similar entertainment and we want Pride Charlotte to stand out and we defiantly accomplished that this year with Trina, Erika Jayne, Peter Presta, Chad Michaels and the fabulous Ship Rocked Crew.
SE: Kudos to you for going for something different yet still trying to cater to all of your attendees. You are correct...I have performed at many Prides and they all have about the same line up! You be the Maverick and hopefully other Prides will follow! Do you have anything else you wish to discuss about this year's Pride or as you look forward to next year?
JH: You know this year was just amazing the energy on Saturday night was like nothing I have ever experienced with festival attendance estimated at 45k I ask myself how do we top that next year and that’s something we are already working on.
SE: Well I know that if anyone can top this year's success it is you! You have brought Pride Charlotte to what it is today...and that is something to be PROUD of my dear!
JH: Well I can't take all the credit I have an amazing team of volunteers that make this happen. Most people don't realize that we are all volunteers and we work 11 months to plan each year’s festival.
SE: Another important factor swept under the radar! When not devoting your time to Pride what else do you find yourself enthusiastic about?
JH: I am a DJ and I am currently working on Computer Technology (Digital Forensics) Degree. My hobbies are bowling, softball, music festivals and traveling. I have been with my partner for over three years now. Other interesting facts hmmm.. let me think on that for a min. I guess an interesting fact is that I would love to be on Big Brother and for the past few seasons I have applied but never was selected.
SE: Well next year is your season definitely! Will keep my fingers and toes crossed for ya! Thank you so much for your time and for all you do for the community! You are a gem! I so look forward to performing next year at what will be the best Pride Charlotte ever...because as we see they just keep getting better....